Pharmacological Screening Using an FXN-EGFP Cellular Genomic Reporter Assay for the Therapy of Friedreich Ataxia

Lingli Li, Lucille Voullaire, Chiranjeevi Sandi, Mark A Pook, Panos A Ioannou, Martin B. Delatycki, Joseph P Sarsero

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by neurodegeneration and cardiomyopathy. The presence of a GAA trinucleotide repeat expansion in the first intron of the FXN gene results in the inhibition of gene expression and an insufficiency of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. There is a correlation between expansion length, the amount of residual frataxin and the severity of disease. As the coding sequence is unaltered, pharmacological up-regulation of FXN expression may restore frataxin to therapeutic levels. To facilitate screening of compounds that modulate FXN expression in a physiologically relevant manner, we established a cellular genomic reporter assay consisting of a stable human cell line containing an FXN-EGFP fusion construct, in which the EGFP gene is fused in-frame with the entire normal human FXN gene present on a BAC clone. The cell line was used to establish a fluorometric cellular assay for use in high throughput screening (HTS) procedures. A small chemical library containing FDA-approved compounds and natural extracts was screened and analyzed. Compound hits identified by HTS were further evaluated by flow cytometry in the cellular genomic reporter assay. The effects on FXN mRNA and frataxin protein levels were measured in lymphoblast and fibroblast cell lines derived from individuals with FRDA and in a humanized GAA repeat expansion mouse model of FRDA. Compounds that were established to increase FXN gene expression and frataxin levels included several anti-cancer agents, the iron-chelator deferiprone and the phytoalexin resveratrol.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere55940
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

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